For better or worse, the lifespan of smartphones is decreasing. Barely a year old and the Motorola Droid 2 is already getting replaced by the Motorola Droid 3, which is available now from Verizon Wireless for $199.99 with a two-year contract. Though it lacks 4G support, the Android smartphone offers an improved keyboard, the latest Gingerbread software, a dual-core processor, and a better camera. But is it a must-have upgrade? We don't think so.
The Motorola Droid 3's design is very familiar. It doesn't stray far from previous models and, in fact, more closely resembles the original Droid because of the extra lip at the bottom of the sliding display. Though we understand maintaining a consistent look within a line, we wish Motorola would change up the design just a bit to keep it fresh and interesting.
That said, Motorola has always built solid devices, and the Droid 3 is no exception. The smartphone has a nice, high-quality build with soft-touch finish on back. At 4.9 inches tall by 2.5 inches wide by 0.5 inch thick and 5.9 ounces, it's a handful but thinner than before. Motorola claims the Droid 3 is the world's thinnest full QWERTY smartphone, but the T-Mobile MyTouch 4G Slide is also 0.5 inch thick.
The smartphone features a 4-inch qHD (960x540-pixel resolution) display. Normally, this would be good news, but as on the Motorola Atrix 4G, the
On the bright side, the Droid 3 has an excellent QWERTY keyboard. To access it, you push the screen to the right, and the slider mechanism is quite strong. For the most part, the screen doesn't move around even in its closed state. Unlike past Droid models, the Droid 3's keyboard has a dedicated number row, so you no longer have to press the Alt key. The rectangular buttons are a good size with a roomy layout, so it feels comfortable to use. The keys feature a nonslippery texture and have a slight bump to them, so they're easy to press. There's also a good onscreen keyboard as well.
Below the screen, you get four touch-sensitive buttons for the menu, home, back, and search functions. On the left side of the phone, you'll find a Micro-USB port and an HDMI port; there's a volume rocker on the right side. A power/lock button and 3.5mm headphone jack are on top of the device, with the VGA camera and LED notification just below the latter in the upper right corner of display. The 8-megapixel camera and flash are located on back, but alas, there's no dedicated camera key.
The Motorola Droid 3 comes packaged with an AC adapter, a USB cable, a SIM card, and reference material.
Software and apps
The Motorola Droid 3 ships running Android 2.3 Gingerbread with Motoblur software. The latter is Motorola's custom skin for the Android platform and features five home screens that you can customize with various widgets and shortcuts. Though you can adjust the size of the widgets, Motoblur still feels rather clunky compared with something like HTC Sense or the stock Android experience, so we always try to minimize our use of it.
We do, however, like the dock at the bottom screen where you can assign four of your favorite apps for easy access across the five panels. The software also has a feature similar to HTC's leap screen where you can hit the home button from the main home screen to get thumbnail views of the various screens, so you can easily jump from one to the next.
Meanwhile, the main apps are arranged in a grid format spread across pages, so that instead of scrolling down to see the entire list, you can now view the apps by swiping left to right or vice versa. At the top of each page is a shortcut to the Android Market, as well as a pull-down menu that gives you access to groups of apps, including recently used, downloaded, user-created groups, or Verizon apps.
Speaking of Verizon apps, there's no shortage of them, as the Droid 3 comes preloaded with V Cast Music, V Cast Tones, V Cast Videos, and VZ Navigator, among others. We do appreciate the inclusion of some apps, such as Skype Mobile, the Quickoffice suite, the Amazon Kindle app, and Slacker, but it would still be nice to have an option to uninstall the ones we don't want. Also, for those who care, the Droid 3 comes with a locked bootloader, so you can't load any custom ROMs.